Factual knowledge is the bedrock of good history writing. Without it, meaningful opinions cannot be formed or substantiated.
With this in mind, I developed the Keyword Checker at ClassTools. Simply input the essential terms, names, dates and events in one box, and paste the essay into the other. The application will then check the essay and provide a quick rundown of exactly which terms have been included, and which have been left out.
Best of all, terms can be organised under key headings (indicated by an asterisk). In this way, the coverage of particular themes in the essay can be separately assessed. For example, in an essay on the causes of the Spanish Civil war, the following terms might be considered particularly important:
The Keyword Checker will give a quick breakdown in the following format:
Taking it further
The KeyWord Checker is not just useful for giving teachers a quick impression about how much hard factual knowledge has been included in an essay. Two additional ways it could be used are:
- Get students themselves to decide upon what the most important five themes are to cover, and what five terms they agree everybody should aim to mention. How they choose to link the themes, and what additional evidence to include, is of course totally up to each student, but the group decision provides a useful baseline.
- Provide the students with the list of keywords in advance, and tell students to use the keyword checker themselves before handing the essay in for final marking: any essay not using more than 80% (for example) for the keywords needs to be developed further.